Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
"I would have to say that every nurse that has ever been in a war has experienced the same thing. When you help a wounded man they always say, 'Thank you ma'am, you're an angel.' You never forget looking into the eyes of an 18-year-old kid that is mortally wounded and you know he's going to die and he knows he's going to die. And, more often than not, these kids would always say, 'Ma'am, could you help my buddy? He's on the stretcher ahead of me and he's hurt a lot worse than I am.'" Those are the words of Janie Schaut of Emmett reflecting on her experiences serving as an Army nurse during the Vietnam War.
Last year, I had the honor of recognizing Janie's service to our nation and veterans through a 2011 Spirit of Freedom Award. Janie's words have stuck with me, as she movingly captured the selflessness of our nation's veterans. Each year, as I present the Spirit of Freedom: Idaho Veterans Service Award to Idaho veterans and volunteers, I am continually inspired by the great sense of camaraderie and virtually endless service of these exemplary individuals. We present the awards in two categories-veterans and volunteers-but usually the two categories overlap. The volunteers working with veterans are most often veterans themselves. They have already given considerably to our nation and volunteer countless hours to helping and spending time with their fellow veterans.
As I have traveled around Idaho, I have had the privilege of meeting with many veterans and the volunteers who assist them. Both deserve special recognition. The Spirit of Freedom: Idaho Veterans Service Award is a small way that we can acknowledge their contributions and help ensure that others in the community know the sacrifices they and their families have made to secure the freedom we all hold dear. The nominations for the awards are made by a number of veterans' organizations. The first Spirit of Freedom Awards were presented in November 2002. In the last 10 years, we have presented 156 of these awards. The awards are generally announced on Veterans Day each year.
Like the past award recipients, the 2012 Spirit of Freedom Awardees exemplify selfless service. This Veterans Day, seventeen individuals will be presented with the award. These Idahoans are from six communities across Idaho, and we are blessed to count these individuals as Idahoans and Americans. Included among them is a man who lived through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, served in the Korean War as an U.S. Navy surgeon, settled in Idaho and raised a family while contributing greatly to his communities through his profession in surgery and his giving spirit. Another award recipient this year is a highly decorated soldier, who served for more than 25 years in the U.S. Army Special Forces. His service included tours in Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm. He continues to serve through spending significant time assisting fellow veterans. These are just a couple of examples of the individuals being awarded this year. Biographies regarding each of this year's award recipients will be added to the information about past year recipients posted on my website at https://www.crapo.senate.gov/idaho/sof/SOF2011.cfm.
This Veterans Day, as we recognize the extraordinary service of our nation's veterans, who have stepped up to protect our nation, I am grateful to be able to honor some of these men and women through the Spirit of Freedom Award. Their stories and ongoing dedication are inspiring, and I thank veterans and the volunteers who assist the veteran community for their commitment and service.
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